Effects of Obesity

The Effects of Weight on a
Child, Teen, or Young Adult.

Weight can have a significant impact on the medical, emotional, and social health of people of any age. These complications can arise even at early age for adolescents with potential lifelong impact if the weight issue is not addressed.

Click on a glowing red dot to learn more about how weight issues can impact a teen's health.

Increased risk of stroke.

High blood pressure is considered the most important controllable risk factor for strokes, a condition often heightened by poor diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity.

Stroke accounts for 1 in every 14 deaths in the U.S. Later in life, obesity can double the risk of stroke; men with a BMI of 30 or higher were twice as likely to have a stroke than normal weight individuals.

Department of Neurology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Division of Epidemiology; American Heart Association.

Shorter life span.

According to a recent study, people who exhibit unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, including a lack of physical activity and poor diet, live an average of 14 years less than those who live healthy lifestyles.

Many experts predict today's youth will live a shorter life span than the previous generation. If true, this would be the first time in modern history.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council PLoS Medicine; Foresight report, Professor King, Britain's Chief Scientific Adviser and team of researchers.

Increased risk of diabetes.

Nearly 10% of teens have metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome, if it persists, leads to a fivefold increase in diabetes and 14.5x greater risk of cardiovascular disease by the time overweight teens reach their 30s. Both diabetes and cardiovascular disease can greatly reduce quality of life and life span. One prominent cardiologist states that once Type 2 diabetes develops, patients can expect to live only 20 years after diagnosis.

Pediatrics Magazine, John A. Morrison, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio; Stephen Cook, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center published with a collection of reports from the working group in February's Journal of Pediatrics; Robert Lustig, University of California at San Francisco.

Shortness of breath, sleep apnea, and asthma.

Fatty deposits in the lungs can leave some obese children feeling out of breath even while standing still.

Obese children are 2 - 5x more likely to develop sleep apnea, which means that they actually stop breathing temporarily during sleep. Sleep apnea can decrease brain functioning, as well as increase risk of heart attack or stroke.

Obese children are also twice as likely as healthy weight children to develop asthma. Asthma can negatively impact activity levels, leading to further weight gain, and increase the risk of sudden death.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Blunden, S. Sleep Medicine Review; Aditya Bardia, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues, reported in the August issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Increased risk of heart disease.

The heart of an overweight person must work harder to pump blood, increasing risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol 2-3x greater than healthy-weight individuals.

Young children who are inactive are 5 - 6x more likely to be at risk of serious heart disease. This risk can emerge as early as the teen years and can lead to heart attacks and strokes as early as the 20's.

Robert G McMurray, Shrikant I Bangdiwala, Joanne S Harrell and Leila D Amorim, Dynamic Medicine; Jennifer L. Baker of the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen, who led the research, being published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Cost to finances and productivity.

Over the course of the year, obese men and women earn, on average, $7,093, or about 25% less than their peers.

Obesity costs an additional 36% in health care services (more than drinking or smoking), with medication expense 77% higher.

Across the US, the medical costs of obesity-related problems such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease run near $140 billion.

Kenneth Thorpe, a professor of public health at Emory University; The Conference Board RTI Report; Joel Cohen, economic researcher for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; Researchers at Stanford University.

Liver failure and fatigue.

High fat diets leads to fatty liver disease in 1/3 of obese or overweight children. In the short term, fatty liver disease can lead to stomach pain, discomfort, infection, and fatigue.

Long term, fatty liver disease can cause the liver to enlarge, leading to scarring and potential liver failure (requiring liver transplants or causing death).

van Dam RM, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB. The relationship between overweight in adolescence and premature death in women. Ann Intern Med; Ji, H. and Friedman, M.I. Metabolism.

Gallstones leading to pain, vomiting, and infection.

Obesity, high fat diets, and potentially low levels of activity, increase risk of gallstones. Gallstones are solid clusters of cholesterol that can congeal in the gallbladder. Gallstones can cause nausea, intense pain in the upper abdomen, inflammation, and infection. Hospitalization of children for gallstones has tripled in the past 30 years. High levels of obesity greatly increase the risk of developing gallstones.

Laura A. Feeney, Emily J. Tomayko, and Hae R. Chung of the University of Illinois and Kijin Kim of Keimyung University in Daegu, Korea in the Journal of Applied Physiology; Mayo Clinic.

Increased risk of depression and suicide, lowered health-related quality of life.

Surveys show that obese individuals report high levels of complaints of pain, reduced vitality, and problems in social roles and functioning on the job.

Obese people who seek treatment for weight loss are much more likely to experience clinically significant anxiety and depression compared to non-obese people. Increased risk of depression for some women has been documented and increased risk for attempted suicide and actual suicide has occurred in studies of both men and women who were very obese (BMI > 40).

Wadden TA et al. Psychosocial consequences of obesity and weight loss. In TA Wadden & AJ Stunkard (Eds.) Handbook of Obesity Treatment; Dong C, Li WD, Price RA. Extreme obesity is associated with attempted suicides: results from a family study. Int'l J of Obesity; Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne; journal of General Hospital Psychiatry.

Heightened risk of Cancer.

Obesity is associated with 14% of cancer deaths in men and 20% of cancer deaths in women, causing between:

Obesity raises the risk of dying from prostrate cancer by 64%. Heaviest people (e.g., adults with Body Mass Indexes over 40) have more than 50% greater risk of death from cancer than those of normal weight.

Dr. Walter C. Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health; The World Cancer Research Fund's report; journal Cancer by Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston Parker ED, Folsom AR. Intentional weight loss and incidence of obesity-related cancers: The Iowa Women's Health Study. International J of Obesity.

Decreased productivity and job prospects.

The seven most common diseases, six of which can be worsened by obesity, cost employers $1.1 trillion in lost productivity annually. Studies that altered job applicants' weights found strong bias against overweight people in all areas of employment - selection, placement, compensation, promotion, discipline and discharge.

At the workplace, this results in 16% of employers stating that they wouldn't hire obese people under any conditions and 44% saying that they would hire them only under "special circumstances."

Only 9% of high level executives in one survey were obese (vs. 32% in the general population).

Wadden TA et al. Psychosocial consequences of obesity and weight loss. In TA Wadden & AJ Stunkard (Eds.) Handbook of Obesity Treatment; The Milken Institute.

Less likely to marry or graduate from college.

One study showed that obese children rate their quality of life as low as young cancer patients-in fact, obese children were five times more likely to report a low quality of life.

Researchers have found that compared to their peers, overweight men and women were:

Wadden TA et al. Psychosocial consequences of obesity and weight loss. In TA Wadden & AJ Stunkard (Eds.) Handbook of Obesity Treatment; University of California San Diego study; Gortmaker SL et al. Social and economic consequences of overweight in adolescence and young adulthood, New England J of Medicine.

Poorer academic performance.

Research indicates that overweight children and teens perform worse on some measures of intellectual functioning and in school, more generally.

Obese children are also absent from school an average of 20% more days than healthy weight children. Significant weight loss has led to improvements in a measure of academic competence, at least in one large scale study.

Yanfeng Li, Qi Dai, James C. Jackson and Jian Zhang Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; Caroline Braet, Obesity Vol. 14 No. 1 January 2006; Andrew B. Geier, and other researchers from Penn and Temple University.